It’s all about scale, about keeping perspective
invented in the 1480’s by Filippo Brunelleschi,
the Florentine architect. Unrolling blueprints
my father drew for this house he built himself,
for the home I now must sell, I remind myself
of the earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province,
the cyclone in Myanmar. I still need to fortify myself
with words of Michael Kimmelman, chief art critic
for The New York Times, about how to represent
three dimensions in two: Perspective works
by having a vanishing point, or single spot at
which all parallel lines going from near to far
theoretically converge, the effect of which creates
an illusion of depth. Daddy is dead and I have
had nothing tangible to keep me connected to him
until I ferret out these architectural plans. I can
picture his fingers rolling and unrolling this paper,
but not touching my face or stroking my cheek.
I do remember my father’s hands, their grace,
long nails he’d clean and cut with a pocket knife.
Surely, there were kisses, a good old fashioned
bear hug at our Bluegrass Airport good byes.
He never wrote me a letter, sent one Valentine which
I still have. Insatiable as I am for mementos of his love,
is it possible that these technical drawings will help
me understand what kind of man he was? Unlike me,
Daddy valued silence, never was one to talk much
and it’s no surprise that in blueprints for his house,
there are specifications for pegs to cover the screws
in the hardwood for floors and stairs that do not creak.
It is not what’s revealed but structure he concealed,
buried in the interior that will matter in the long run.
My father was a briar hopper, a label guys from Ohio
used to taunt teenage country boys from Kentucky.
The men told jokes about having to yell green side up
to the hillbillies they had hired to lay sod because
corseted by poverty, my father and his cousins
would work cheap, work long. Now, I understand
why Daddy did not appreciate my sense of humor
when I called out in the elevator filled with old men
and women strapped into wheelchairs at Uncle Paul’s
convalescent home, Going down. Working for men
who did not know what it was like to be wrong,
my father learned to wash his face of need or an edge.
Unlike his bosses in Ohio, will the house’s new owners
value the strength, the integrity of top quality lumber
that can’t be seen or proved except by tearing apart
the walls? No lines will web the front porch’s planter
with bricks that layer down into a basement that is
built of cement block threaded in steel rods. A garage
and back porch with columns of concrete to their bases
will never crack and pull away from the house walls.
These blueprints, the lesson plan for what Daddy tried
to teach me, show how complex simple surfaces can be.
It’s not what is visible but what is invisible like love,
like faith that creates depth, a foundation that will last.
Did my father closet these blueprints so we’d converge
to create an intersection where I can jumpstart my heart?
–from All of Your Messages Have Been Erased © 2010
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